PhD thesis abstract. Shri Niwas Singh,Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore - 560012.

Thesis Title:

In situ conservation of wild relatives of cultivated plants in Uttara Kannada District of Karnataka State, India.

The basic idea behind in situ conservation is to maintain the concerned organisms in their natural habitats where they are thriving well and are in good relationship and evolving with other components of the ecosystem. Therefore, to devise in situ conservation measures for the wild relatives of crop plants (WRCPs), a knowledge of autecology, biology, community ecology, interspecific association and their interdependence with other components of the ecosystem is necessary. A case study from Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, India is given here.

A logical approach for maximising the number of species being saved while selecting sites for in situ conservation is given. This approach has some further advancements over the commonly used greedy method which is not foolproof.

The abundance, frequency of occurrence, quality of habitat, habitat preference, and species association of 50 WRCPs is discussed in detail. This would help in selection of sites if species-specific approaches are taken for their in situ conservation.

WRCPs co-occur in one or more habitats. Therefore, to think for common caring strategies for such co-occurring species, 50 chosen WRCPs were classified to find out association among themselves and habitats of these species-clusters were characterised and the successional gradient of these 50 WRCPs was worked out by reciprocal averaging. Such information would help in taking multi-species, multi-habitat approach for in situ conservation.

The 46 sampled sites representing 21 major habitat types of UK were classified based on presence/absence of 50 chosen WRCPs and the resulting 13 site-clusters were characterized based on 11 community parameters. One site-cluster had no WRCP. Therefore, all possible combinations were tested for the remaining 12 site- clusters. If we consider only these WRCPs then the resulting combinations of site-clusters saving maximum WRCPs could be selected for in situ conservation. However, only WRCPs without associated plants and other components of the ecosystem can not be conserved in isolation. Moreover, habitats or LSEs are constantly being transformed by anthropogenic factors into more economically valuable LSEs. Therefore, conservation strategies will have to be planned with full consideration of the ongoing habitat changes.

In a habitat approach, it is shown that despite being part of evergreen forests, Myristica swamps are a distinct habitat type within evergreen forests. It is suggested to locate the remaining Myristica swamps, remove threats, declare them "burning spots" within "hot spot" and "spices' gene sanctuaries", and hitch their conservation with ecotourism business.

The study of Amorphophallus species reveals that the long term maintenance of their populations would require simultaneous attention to the conservation of their preferred habitats and the quality of the habitat for their pollinators and seed dispersal agents.

An analysis of the current scenario of the status and perceived threats to the populations of some of the wild rices and their weedy relatives is given. Introducing them into Ramsar wetlands, hitching their in situ conservation with bird watching and ecotourism, and taking help of local people dependent on wild rices and these wetlands might help.